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New Publication: "Playing with Fear"

Research article on recreational fear published in Psychological Science

Image from haunted house scarecam (credit: Dystopia Haunted House).

New research on recreational fear - "Playing with Fear: A Field Study in Recreational Horror" - has been published in the esteemed journal Psychological Science.

The study, which was helmed by lab member Marc Malmdorf Andersen, recruited guests at a Danish haunted attraction (Dystopia Haunted House) and equipped them with heart rate monitors while recording their behavior inside the haunted house.

The results of the study show that enjoyment has an inverted-U-shaped relationship with fear across repeated self-reported measures. Moreover, results from physiological data demonstrate that the experience of being frightened is a linear function of large-scale heart rate fluctuations, whereas there is an inverted-U-shaped relationship between participant enjoyment and small-scale heart rate fluctuations.

These results suggest that enjoyment is related to forms of arousal dynamics that are “just right,” and the findings shed light on how fear and enjoyment can coexist in recreational horror.